High Court allows 1MDB access to Riza Aziz’s documents in US$250mil lawsuit

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has allowed an application by 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and its three subsidiaries against Hollywood producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz for access to documents.

These documents include his correspondence with fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, in a US$250mil (RM1.03bil) lawsuit.

Justice Amarjeet Singh allowed the application by 1MDB and its three subsidiaries - 1MDB Energy Holdings Ltd, 1MDB Energy Ltd and 1MDB Energy (Langat) Ltd - for discovery of documents in the lawsuit.

Riza, the defendant, has to serve the plaintiffs a list of documents that 1MDB requires in the civil case by way of an affidavit.

He must serve an affidavit stating the status of the documents specified, whether it is in his possession or whetherhe has parted with it and what has become of it.

The 46-year-old must also permit the plaintiffs to inspect the original or duplicate copies of the requested documents for inspection and photocopying.

In the decision, which was via an e-mail exchange on Thursday (Aug 4), the judge has given 30 days for the defendants to comply with the order and for the costs to be within the cause.

In the notice of application for the discovery, filed on Jan 28, the plaintiffs requested for documents and correspondence between Low and Riza between 2009 and 2015, among others.

1MDB is seeking access for receipts and documents related to a sum of US$10,173,104 by Red Granite Pictures Inc (second defendant), and receipt and documents related to US$238mil by Red Granite Capital Ltd (third defendant).

The documents sought included bank statements and loan agreements.

1MDB also sought access to Riza's 2012 US tax returns, documents and correspondence on the purchase of movie posters and memoribilia from the owner and president of Cinema Archives between October 2012 and March 2014 as well as documents relating to the purchase of real estate in New York, California and London.

The case has been fixed for further case management before the judge on Sept 12.

Lawyers Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh, Low Zhi Jie and Syazwani Mohd Zawawi represented the defendants.

The plaintiffs are represented by lawyers Rabindra S. Nathan, Lim Jun Rui and Vanessa Thong.

On Jan 28, 1MDB filed for the discovery of documents to obtain the documents and correspondence from Riza.

In a supporting affidavit filed by 1MDB director Mohd Hisyamuddin Awang Abu Bakar, he said the documents sought would help the plaintiff's claim in the lawsuit.

In an affidavit-in-reply, Riza said he believed the documents requested by the plaintiffs was merely a "fishing expedition" to obtain more information from him and by allowing the application, it would tantamount to an oppression against him.

On May 7, last year, 1MDB and its subsidiaries sued Riza, the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and his companies for allegedly misappropriating US$250mil (RM1.03bil), which was said to have been used for real estate purchases and financing movie productions.

According to the writ of summons, 1MDB claimed that Riza had received approximately US$250mil in funds that were misappropriated from the sovereign wealth fund by its officers and their associates in 2011 and 2012.

It said that Riza “knew or ought to have known that those funds had been misappropriated” and had allegedly used the funds for their personal benefit and for the benefit of their associates, including for the purposes of financing movie productions and purchasing various real estate.

1MDB wants, among others, a court declaration that Riza and the two companies are liable for the misappropriated funds and alternatively, a declaration that the plaintiffs are entitled to repayment of the said funds allegedly received by the three defendants on the basis of unjust enrichment as a consequence of the misappropriation.

In his statement of defence, Riza said the monies to produce Hollywood movies were loans from the Saudi Arabia royal family and not funds from 1MDB.

He said as an unknown film producer, it was hard to obtain bank loans and therefore he sought loans from individuals or companies.

Red Granite Pictures is the studio behind the 2013 movie The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, among others.

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